This message was sent to PUSD families on Friday evening:
Dear Piedmont Students, Staff, Parents, and Community,
We are living in an extraordinary time that holds the promise of breaking down barriers and creating, finally, a world that is safe and just for people of all races and backgrounds. Our students, in many ways, are role models for this work. They have a keen awareness of the racial injustices that have permeated our society and are not afraid to call out sentiments, statements, or actions from adults that violate their sense of justice.
We saw an example of that this week in our community when students reacted to an email from district staff that invited them to participate in restorative circles by affinity groups to process reactions to the Derek Chauvin verdict. The District’s intent was to give our BIPOC students a safe space to talk with others from similar racial backgrounds and to provide White students with an opportunity to talk about how to be an ally.
A poor choice of words in the subject line of the invitation to White students led to the perception that White students needed the same kind of “support” as our BIPOC students. Students of all racial backgrounds rightfully pushed back on that idea. We agree, and we want to affirm in the strongest terms that our commitment is to give all students a place to express their feelings and to learn how to engage in important issues.
Everyone in our community has their own unique role and responsibility in the work of anti-racism; affinity groups advance equity by meeting the particular needs of each group in doing the work of eliminating systemic injustice. The intent of a circle for White allies is to discuss how to be a better ally in the pursuit of racial justice. Additionally, we are planning to offer circles open to all in order to give students of different backgrounds a chance to process together.
The Piedmont School Board made a strong commitment to racial justice in a resolution and board policy passed last year. I encourage you to take time to read the resolution and policy to learn about the commitment the Board has made as it guides our work with students and staff.
We recognize that the journey of anti-racism is hard, and we will keep educating ourselves and learning from each other as we travel. This week the students reminded us that words matter. Even when the intention is honorable and right, we need to communicate with sensitivity and care.
We thank all who communicated with us on this matter. Your feedback made a big difference and helped us clarify how we will communicate moving forward.
Randall Booker, Superintendent